LAHORE - Emphasis on agriculture, water security and skills development along with broadened tax base and a corruption-free tax system are the factors to ensure appropriate resource mobilisation in Pakistan, said MPA Dr Nausheen Hamid from PTI while speaking at a roundtable organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Lahore, discussing the possible economic agenda for elections 2018.

The roundtable was attended by well-known personalities from private sector, business associations like Lahore chamber of Commerce and industry, Lahore Woman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ICMA, ICAP, ACCA, FGCC, FCCI, PHMA, PCTMEA as well as departments including SMEDA, Business Recorder Research and LUMS.

Dr Hamid says that the youth bulge of the country can be utilized efficiently through job provision and access to social services.  Ms Natasha Daultana from PPP-P highlighted that agriculture sector is being affected due to negligence of the relevant departments. She suggested that economic manifesto must include cutting off indirect taxes and providing subsidies to small farmers.

Sarfraz Ahmed Khan from Jamaat – e – Islami highlighted the issue of water scarcity and the need to build additional reservoirs and that, it should be made the top priority in the government policy framework for instance, PSDP.

The discussion was preceded by a presentation by Engr Ahad Nazir, Project coordinator, SDPI. He emphasized on all political parties to focus on 3 major concerns highlighted during SDPI’s provincial consultations with business community. First, the cost of energy needs to be rationalized either through establishment of efficient energy infrastructure which may result in reduction of relevant surcharges and other levies. Second, the federal and provincial tax regime needs to be simplified and other number of taxes on SMEs may be reduced in order to make it easy for the SMEs to graduate towards larger corporations. There is a need for tax reforms which may result in lesser tax authorities optimising the cost of doing business. Third, he focused on the need of availability of quality skilled labour force particularly to meet the demands of growing manufacturing sector and CPEC SEZs. Furthermore, he stressed that the revival of agriculture and livestock sector in Pakistan, farmers must be protected from indirect and withholding mode of taxation. To promote local and foreign investment across all sectors, there is a need to reform the system of corporate taxes. Currently, the corporate taxes the private sector are one of the highest in the region. Along-side reform of tax administration, it is also important to strengthen audit capacities in all revenue authorities.